What is serious to [us] is often very trivial in the sight of God. What in God might appear to us as “play” is perhaps what He Himself takes most seriously. At any rate the Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance. We do not have to go very far to catch echoes of that game, and of that dancing. When we are alone on a starlit night; when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children; when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet, Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash – at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the “newness,” the emptiness and the purity of the vision that makes themselves evident, provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance….
Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.
Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance.
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
Our meditation teaches us how fully every part of us has to be involved in the radical conversion of our life. It teaches us that we have to put our whole heart into this work of the Spirit if we are genuinely to respond to the call to leave the shallows and enter into the deep, direct knowledge that marks a life lived in the mystery of God. Then everything in our life acquires this depth dimension of divine Presence. We are foolish to look for “signs” on the way – it is a form of spiritual materialism that Jesus rebuked – because if we are on the way, which means in the Mystery, in the bright cloud of God’s presence, then all things are signs. Everything mediates the love of God….
The “heart” is that focal point in our being where we can simply be in the Mystery without trying to explain or dissect it. A mystery analyzed becomes merely another problem. It must be apprehended whole and entire. And that is why we, who are called to apprehend it, must ourselves be one in mind and heart.
- John Main, Selected Writings
[Alumnus, Nate Petersen, is hitting the road, continuing a spiritual pilgrimage that he finds best served by hitchhiking. Recently he was interviewed on “Your Story with Melinda.” Among the nuggets he shared was this:]
When we bask in paradox, it’s an opportunity to continue learning. It’s not the end of the road. There is not that certain period at the end of the sentence. It’s more of a … and then we can continue the sentence and build and learn and grow in this wonderful, spiritual experience of life.
I think that what we’re longing for is to be taught a tradition that can help us to live in that tension.
[The SSU staff and faculty met yesterday for an afternoon of community discernment. The second paragraph below helped us focus our thoughts for the afternoon.]
Contemplation is an entirely new way of knowing the world that has the power to move us beyond mere ideology and dualistic thinking. Mature religion will always lead us to some form of prayer, meditation, or contemplation to balance out our daily calculating mind. Believe me, it is major surgery, and you must practice it for years to begin to rewire your egocentric responses. Contemplation is work, so much so that most people give up after their first futile attempts. But the goal of contemplation is not success, only the continuing practice itself. The only people who pray well are those who keep praying….
The capacity for nondual seeing that is developed through contemplation allows us to be happy, rooted in God, comfortable with paradox and mystery, and largely immune to mass consciousness and its false promises. This is true wisdom knowing, and it is the job of elders to pass it on to the next generation so we need not start at zero.
….When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
Cause everything is holy now….
– Peter Mayer, Holy Now